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Former BR Wholesale President accused of embezzlement
MARSHALL, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - BR Wholesale RV and Marine has been in Marshall 23 years, but what it is going through now might force it to close for good.
Owners JR and Ruby Watts say the damage they uncovered to the business is beyond belief and they say it's all caused by the man they trusted to run the company, former president James LeBelle.
"I think he just took advantage of the whole system, everybody in their job is given certain responsibilities, some people don't honor those responsibilities," says Marshall Police Lieutenant Scott McDonald.
For 15 months LeBelle had been running the business for the Watts while they started a semi-retirement.
Lieutenant McDonald says in that time LeBelle made 251 transactions unrelated to the business, taking close to $160,000.
And he made a wide range of personal purchases.
"Everything from furnishings from the home, to different trips for the suspects and his family, a little bit of everything. We also found some of the funds were used to help the suspect start up a small business," says McDonald.
Investigators found he used company funds to pay his rent, pay a bankruptcy attorney and rent a vacation cottage.
They also found he used the company's Sam's Club card to buy a TV, a blu-ray player and food.
The Watts say they didn't know what had been going on until they went into the business around Christmas time and thought they had been robbed. Inventory was gone and the 17 store employees had been laid off.
There is a warrant out for LeBelle for embezzlement and the penalty is up to 20 years in jail.
Police think LeBelle may now be in the Massachusetts area.